Myrtle Beach is the reining tourist destination in the state of South Carolina and fortunately for us, only a 2-hour drive north! Our family has been to the Myrtle Beach area several times to enjoy the white-sand beaches and the state parks located nearby, however, we never experienced Myrtle Beach as true tourists and we were excited to find out what draws over 14 millions visitors per year.
During my research I soon realized that besides all of the incredible outdoor recreational pursuits (think golf, watersports and fishing), Myrtle Beach offers a dizzying array of attractions, shows, and restaurants to experience. A family could easily spend weeks here and still have a list of things to see and do. It definitely took some time combing through all the options but finally, I pulled together a fun-filled, family-friendly itinerary. Come along with us on our perfect weekend in Myrtle Beach!
Where to Stay:
While hotels, timeshares and vacation home rentals are popular, there are also some amazing offerings for camping families. On the south side of town, there are a string of very large beachfront campgrounds to choose from. Seeking recommendations from local Charleston campers on their favorite spots in Myrtle Beach, Pirateland Family Camping Resort came up often as a place many enjoyed camping with their families growing up. Come to find out, Pirateland has been hosting families for 50 years! Pirateland actually began back in the 1960’s as a family amusement park. That family decided to add a small campground for the amusement park visitors to stay and Pirateland campground was born. From these humble beginnings, it has grown to offer over 1,000 full-service campsites; all with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean! Don’t have an RV? Pirateland also offers cabin rentals as well as fully furnished vacation rentals.
If you were so inclined, you could check-in and have a fantastic Myrtle Beach vacation without ever leaving. The big draw is the onsite water park which is free to registered guests. Here you will find an Olympic size outdoor swimming pool, a 510 ft. Lazy River (floats provided), and a pirate-themed splash area for the little ones. Other on-site activities available are an indoor heated pool (for those winter months), Blackbeard mini golf, paddleboat/kayak rentals, basketball courts, playgrounds,arcade, camp store and special events.
After check-in, campers drive through a security gate, through the village of permanent homes before reaching the campground. The first thing one notices is how close together the sites are. That little lack of privacy is truly a small price to pay for the gorgeous location. We continued on to our Oceanfront Premium camp site #757. This corner site was amazing; separated from the beach only by a dirt road. We spent the evening grilling dinner before enjoying some beach-combing and watching the sun set.
Note: Shoulder-season is a fantastic time to camp in Myrtle Beach. The weather is beautiful and it is easy (and inexpensive) to secure Oceanfront sites.
Saturday morning was brisk but incredibly beautiful. Mia decided she would brave the cold and join me on my requisite beach walk. We were blessed with an awe-inspiring sun rise over the gently lapping waves. As it was too cold to enjoy a long stroll, we returned to camp to warm up, get some coffee on and enjoy a quick breakfast. We were all eager to get started with our day!
Our first destination was the Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade to take a ride on the impressive SkyWheel. We were ushered into our own personal car and once locked, we were whisked up and the view laid out before us. We could see for miles in all directions as we twisted in our seats to take in every angle. Our car briefly stopped at the very top (approximately 200 feet above ground). It slightly swayed with the breeze causing my stomach to give an excited little flutter. It was the perfect way to start the day!
After our ride, we headed to the popular Broadway on the Beach entertainment and shopping complex. Although we came to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium, we quickly realized that we could spend an entire day here enjoying the many attractions (think mini-golf, museum, and zip-line).
Our arrival at Ripley’s Aquarium coincided with the start of the Live Mermaid show. As we took our place in the darkened area, two beautiful mermaids floated into view. They twisted, twirled and waved to the crowds’ delight. The happiest in the audience were the littlest ones. Their little faces shone with amazement.
After the show, we made our way to the highlight of the aquarium; a 340-foot-long moving “glidepath” that took us to an undersea world. Gliding through an acrylic tunnel, we were able to see many different species of fish, sharks and stingrays as they silently passed overhead and around us. Our tank favorites were the beautiful green sea turtle and saw fish!
Horseshoe Crab Touch Tank – Ripley’s Aquarium – Myrtle Beach, SC
Next stop was the Discovery Center where Drake and Mia enjoyed learning about (and touching) horseshoe crabs. We learned they are living fossils and have been around for over 200 million years. My favorite area was Planet Jellies. There were literally thousands of jelly fish to view; all in backlit and color-changing display tanks. My favorite display was the upside down jellies, while Drake and Mia really enjoyed the moon jelly touch tank. We had a great visit!
By the time we finished at the aquarium, our family was ready for lunch. We had quite a choice as Broadway at the Beach has over 20 dining options. The family opted to try Wahlburger, a restaurant chain owned by Chef Paul Wahlberg and celebrity brothers; Donnie and Mark.
Wahlburger offers the choice of sit-down service or fast-casual dining utilizing the same menu. We chose the fast casual option and made our way to the counter to place an order. Friendly staff shared that the casual comfort food menu items are based on Wahlberg family recipes. We selected our meals and headed to find a table.
Our food came out hot and fresh. Troy opted for the “Our” Burger, a 1/3 pound patty with cheese and the normal fixings. I ordered Mom’s Sloppy Joe; an open-faced sandwich on grilled bread with house-made sloppy joe, crispy onions and Walhsauce. Drake and Mia ordered hamburgers off the kids’ menu which came with a choice of side. My favorite item was the amazing sweet potato tots. They had a slight hint of spice to them and were so yummy! We left full and ready for our next adventure.
Next on our agenda was a visit to Alligator Adventure, located in North Myrtle Beach. The location for Alligator Adventure seems misplaced somehow; adjacent to another large entertainment complex called Barefoot Landing, but once you step inside, you enter another world.
Upon entering, the first exhibit we came upon was the Juvenile American Alligators. There was a literal “carpet” of alligators; all lying on one another enjoying the warmth of the sun. When one alligator decided to exit the water and join his brethren, it created an amazing chain reaction as all the still beings shifted making waves. It truly was a one-of-a-kind experience to watch.
Click here to see the alligator chain-reaction for yourself!
Next, we came upon a fenced-in enclosure which stunned us when we looked inside. There, lying at the surface of the water was Utan, “King of Crocs.” Frankly, it was a shock to see a crocodile of Utan’s size. He is truly enormous and all I could think of was how much this guy must eat! Unfortunately, there was no good way to photograph him so we headed to the other side of the enclosure to learn more about him instead. Utan hails from Thailand and is a hybrid of Siamese and Salt-water crocodiles. Weighing about 2,000 pounds and measuring just over 18 feet in length, Utan is the largest crocodile on display in the United States. Truly incredible!
After our Utan visit, we made our way to Crocodile Cove where we got to see a variety of crocodiles, caiman, and alligators including albinos. There was an announcement that the last feeding of the day was about to begin so we headed that way. It was amazing to watch the alligators lunge out of the water in hopes of snagging a large chunk of chicken. During the feeding, the staff member shared lots of great information about the animals and the preservation they do at Alligator Adventure.
Alligator Adventure is also home to an array of exotic birds and mammals including Kookaburras, Kangaroos, Hyenas and Lemurs. Our visit would not have been complete without checking out the Serpentarium. Here we got to see some unbelievably large snakes and an array of lizards, frogs and turtles from around the world.
Tips: Arrive earlier in the day to experience a variety of live shows and feedings. Also, remember to ask about their “2nd Day Free” offer!
No visit to Myrtle Beach would be complete without a dinner show. Myrtle Beach is home to a host of options which can be a little overwhelming. Drake and Mia mentioned a school friend of theirs had recently visited Medieval Times and had told them all about the jousting and live action. That made my choice easy…. Mediveal Times it is!
Our Myrtle Beach trip was really a belated birthday celebration for Drake and Mia so I chose the Celebration Royalty Upgrade Seating Package. This not only guaranteed us closer seats and priority seating, but also included an souvenir family photo for each of us, a personalized announcement during the show, a cheering banner and a slice of celebration cake.
Soon after we were seated, the lights dimmed and the story unfolded. There were six gallant knights on their horses seeking the title of Champion. They fought battles for glory with lance and shield both on horseback and hand-to-hand. It was exhilarating to watch and to cheer the knights on. Mia even received a flower from our knight in red. She blushed crimson at the honor.
Our meal was served in the manner of the 11th century (i.e. no silverware). Roasted chicken, garlic bread, soup, potato and dessert made up a tasty, although slightly messy dinner. The kids loved it! The show soon came to an end and was promptly named “favorite” experience of the trip by Drake and Mia. They want to go again!
Myrtle Beach is home to many breakfast places and we drove past many to get to our choice; Johnny D’s Waffles and Bakery. Chef Jamie Saunders and her staff work hard to serve up breakfast favorites as well as some creative options to adoring year-round residents and tourists alike.
My family is all about the waffles. I was very tempted to try one of their seven Benedict options, but in the end, each of us decided on a different specialty waffle. I opted for the Coconut Banana French Waffle, a waffle dipped in a vanilla bean custard, grilled then topped with fresh bananas, coconut and a cinnamon sauce. No need for maple syrup with this one!
The rest of the family enjoyed a Red Velvet waffle with cream cheese frosting (voted the family favorite), a Cinnaroll waffle, and a seasonal Pumpkin Spice waffle. All were delicious and we left full and I vowed to return on our next visit to try one of those delicious Benedict options.
Tip: Early Bird breakfast is served 7-days-a-week from 6:30 am until 8:30 am.
After we satisfied our hunger, we made our way to the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Complex. We arrived right as they opened and had the museum literally to ourselves. All of Hollywood’s elite are on display here and visitors can move in for that one-of-kind photo. Prop stations are set up along the one-way museum route so you too can have breakfast at Tiffany’s, dress the part of a country star complete with guitar next to Dolly Parton or beam-up with Scotty at the Star-Trek display. Even though many of the movie stars were unknown to Drake and Mia, they loved their visit!
With our All Access Passes, we got to enjoy two additional attractions at Hollywood Wax Museum. The kid-friendly attraction was Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors. Upon entering, the story is set up and visitors are asked to rescue Princess Hannah before time runs out. With over 288 potential turns and infinite reflections, this provided a fun way to work together as a family to find our way out. This was really a fun activity!
Also available is Outbreak, where visitors make their way through a zombie-infested lab complex. This is not an attraction for children so Drake and Mia sat this one out. We were warned that we may get wet, that there would be loud noises and complete darkness. Check on all of those! There were a few times I screamed out and clutched Troy. I was really happy to make it to the exit!
Our final attraction of our whirlwind Myrtle Beach adventure was Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium. Drake had received a Ripley’s Believe or Not book for his birthday so was very excited to possibly have a chance to view some of things he had read about. Mia, on the other hand, was a little hesitant. She wasn’t so sure what was waiting for her inside.
This museum of odd things hosts over 300 exhibits including art, artifacts, unique people and natural curiosities. My favorites was the video that showed how tribes made shrunken heads while Drake and Mia loved the art made entirely from staples. It you like the strange or curious, this is the place for you.
It was almost time to check-out from Pirateland and we knew we wanted to eat before we hit the road so we detoured for lunch at Nacho Hippo. This hip Mexican restaurant serves up glorious mounds of nachos with choices like jerk chicken, lobster, as well as vegetarian. Troy got the “Day After” which included piles of chips with chili, taco beef, black beans, jalapeño, queso crema and lettuce. I opted for a burrito loaded with pork and an ancho chili sauce. What a delightful end to our Myrtle Beach adventure.
There are so many other things to do in Myrtle Beach I am grateful we are only a two-hour drive away! I have started my “Must Visit” list for our next Myrtle Beach adventure. Do you have a favorite thing to see or do in Myrtle Beach that you think we should try? Feel free to post a comment and let us know!